Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Thankful in our Teaching Studios

What are you thankful for?  Here in the United States, we have set aside a day to remember our blessings., dating back to the pilgrims’ giving thanks for the food and provision they had after suffering a terrible winter of death and tragedy.

My family has its traditions; turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie (my favorite is apple), and delicious homemade bread.  We sit in the living room and sing songs related to Thanksgiving, harvest, and gathering together.  For the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of playing for such an event.

Though I am terribly busy with college studies and teaching, I wanted to write here about truly being thankful for our studios and the families that come our way.

What are you thankful for today?

About six years ago, my father encouraged me to start teaching piano lessons.  It started slowly, but has grown now to 31 students.  I’ve had the challenges we all face and have formed my studio policy around those families that have attempted to assert authority above my own.

I currently have a studio of wonderful families and students!  Yes, they have struggles remembering to practice, but they try hard and the parents are a joy to work with.

I am thankful for a studio of students who…

  • do what they are told
  • work hard even when they don’t see where their lessons are heading (because they trust that I do)
  • let me know when they haven’t practiced as much as they should
  • practice above and beyond my expectations
  • are enthusiastic about the piano and encouraging towards others (one in particular this week… 5 years old said something encouraging about EVERY student in her group lesson after they played).

A blessing for any teacher is when a student walks in with a picture they’ve drawn or a bracelet they’ve made.  🙂  Teachers love to feel appreciated, but more than that, our students love to know we are proud of them.

Now, I am not here to write about myself or to gloat.  I am one of many who takes teaching seriously and strives to do my best for my students and their parents (because when the parents are happy, you are happy).  ?

What is your mission statement or teaching philosophy?  Have you followed it to the dime?
A few pointers I’ve come up with to build a successful studio…

  • set expectations from the beginning (practicing, piano equipment, accountability) and continue to stress their importance
  • stay in constant communication with the families you teach
  • organize group lessons and recitals (we do each twice a year) – students build friendships and go home feeling refreshed
  • never accept second best from a student, and be ready to encourage rather than “put down”
  • let students go if they are not meeting expectations regularly or are difficult to deal with, but be gentle about it

I have had several teachers growing up and each one blessed me in a different way.  My first and last two teachers spent extra time with me if I didn’t understand something.  They went over and above to teach me great life lessons and never gave up on me.  One day, when I was dishonest to my teacher about my practice pattern that week, she caught on and wisely called my mom after she sent me home (I was in walking distance).  My mom sent me back to apologize and my teacher’s response just stunned me.  She forgave me, but expected me to work harder now.  A simple answer offering a second chance gave me hope that piano could again be a rewarding pursuit.  Because of that teacher, I developed good, disciplined practice habits and went on to study music in college.  Could she have known?  No, but she put her heart into my music education, forgave me when I lied, and helped me learn not only music, but to live honestly and to LOVE music.  Everything I learned through the years about the piano encouraged me to give my heart to what I do.  Now, when I perform, I am sharing what has been given me as a blessing to others.  If any of you have a student who is lacking a heart for music, give it to them.  If you need students who practice, encourage them when they mess up.  If you need students who work hard and try at everything you suggest, let them know how proud you are of them when they do succeed.

We are spending Thanksgiving this year at my first piano teacher’s house and I will be sing Thanksgiving songs as we gather around the piano – the piano I learned to play my first songs on… the piano I lied in front of when I was dishonest with my teacher, but learned an important lesson on forgiveness, trust, discipline, accountability, and being thankful for all I have.  ?

No matter what, remember to put your heart into what you teach and don’t ever forget that the opportunity you have to reach into these kids lives is special, unique, and may be life-changing.

What are you thankful for in your studios this beautiful Thanksgiving Day?

About the Author

Kristin Phillips
Kristin has been studying piano since the age of 6 and with the guidance of her family and teachers, began teaching others by 14. After pursuing pedagogy in piano and business administration for a short time - to be continued at a later time, she transferred to studying church music ministry at Portland Bible College. She enjoys editing her website, writing in her spare time, teaching piano stud... [Read more]

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